Designing Advertising – A Primer

So, you’re a small business and are looking to create your first advertisement.  Perhaps you are doing it in-house, perhaps you are hiring someone.  Either way, you should know the basics – otherwise, how do you evaluate what is provided to you is good?

The Medium is the Message

You probably have heard this before, and it’s worth remembering.  How you reach an audience (the medium) will dictate not just the design of your advertisement but its focus.  A print advertisement does not always translate well to internet advertising; nor does a TV advertisement translate to radio.

Decide on the medium used, then work on the advertisement.

The Design

A visually dominated advertisement

When working on the advertisement, decide which will dominate:

  • the copy
  • the visual

You can create an advertisement that has one or the other that dominates, but if both the visual and the copy dominate the advertisement, you war with your own design and nothing sticks.

Oh, I know the Oglivy often has both the copy and visual the same size, but it’s worth noting how few of those advertisements you see these days.  They just aren’t as popular because they aren’t as effective anymore.

The Appeal

A copy driven advertisement

Great.  You have a good design concept – now what? Well, now you need to decide on the appeal.

What appeal you use is really dependent on your audience and your medium.   If you don’t understand your audience (and where in their buying cycle you are targeting in that audience); you won’t understand what appeal will work.  Getting the appeal right is important.

The Follow Up

Great.  You have a design and an appeal, what else do you need? Well, a way for your customer to get more information is generally a good idea (the follow up).  Whether it’s as simple as your logo (doable if you have a LOT of brand recognition like Nike) or more detailed website and telephone numbers, you have to make sure your customer knows who created the advertisement and how to get more information.

This is when you start thinking as well as follow-through on other advertisements – do you have a design that flows from banner to website to print advertisement? You should have something linking it all together so that a customer seeing each separately with no context can say ‘oh, that’s X company’.  It can be as subtle as a swoosh or as detailed as specific logo colours and placement, but it needs to be there.

Lastly, start working on metrics – how to track the results of your advertisement.  If you aren’t thinking about this – then how do you know if what you did worked?


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